Nancy Collamer is a semi-retirement coach and the author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. She publishes a free newsletter about second-act careers through her website, MyLifestyleCareer.com. Nancy is a regular contributor to the PBS website NextAvenue.org, USNews.com and Forbes.com. In private practice since 1996, Nancy holds a MS in career development from the College of New Rochelle and a BA in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
You’ve been advising people on “semi-retirement” for many years. What have you found is the most common reason people seek to continue working as they age, rather than simply hanging up their hat?
Nancy Collamer: There are a variety of reasons why people are working longer. Of course, maintaining income and benefits is important to many older Americans. But it’s not just about the money. As enticing as a leisure-based retirement sounds, many people quickly tire of it. They miss the intellectual stimulation and challenge of the workplace. Being engaged in meaningful work provides a sense of purpose, as well as a daily outlet for sharing expertise and talents.
As a career coach, your original focus was on helping moms return to work. What are some of the similarities that parents and aging workers face in the workplace, and how might we leverage those to move workplace change along a little faster?
Nancy Collamer: Both demographics are looking for flexibility, although the desire for flexibility is certainly not limited to these groups. A recent Indeed.com study found that 51% of job seekers say that flexible hours is one of the top three factors that would attract them to a new job (after good pay and location). In addition to flexibility, both groups would like more employers to offer multi-stage career paths (on-ramps, sabbaticals, phased retirement programs, etc.) that accommodate their evolving life needs. Employers who find creative ways to respond to these needs should enjoy a competitive edge in this tight labor market.
The Respectful Exits Longevity Agenda calls on employers to make specific changes in policy and practice to support aging workers. What kind of impact do you think those changes could have?
Nancy Collamer: Employers that support the initiatives proposed in the Respectful Exits Longevity Agenda–eliminating the 65 sell-by date, flexible scheduling, and phased retirement programs–will have an easier time recruiting talented workers 50+. By embracing these policies, employers also send a clear signal to their long-time employees, who often have years of invaluable institutional knowledge, that they are valued and needed contributors.
How might an older employee work with their existing employer to build a “Second Act Career” within their organization?
Nancy Collamer: The goal of any employee career development initiative should be to find the sweet spot between the employee’s talents and personal goals and the employer’s business objectives. Roles that leverage employee’s “wise-elder” status, such as a trainer, coach or mentor to younger employees, are often very desirable. Shifting into a part-time consulting or project role is another popular path.
How might an employer brand itself as age-friendly, and why is that a smart move?'At a time when workers over age 55 are the fastest-growing segment of the US labor force, it’s increasingly important for businesses to embrace hiring and workplace practices that speak to older workers.'Click To Tweet
Nancy Collamer: At a time when workers over age 55 are the fastest-growing segment of the US labor force, it’s increasingly important for businesses to embrace hiring and workplace practices that speak to older workers. Here are some strategic ways employers can brand themselves as age-friendly:
- Feature older people in recruitment photos and videos.
- Partner with organizations that support older workers, like AARP, to diversify and expand your recruiting efforts.
- Invest in creating a workplace that accommodates workers with physical limitations and disabilities.
- Use a group interview process. Studies show that having a team that represents a blend of ages, races, gender and experience can help check the unconscious bias of any one hiring manager.
- Promote training for older workers. Giving a late-stage career employee the opportunity to learn and do something new can help keep them engaged and motivated on the job.
- Provide a wide variety of benefits and let employees choose the ones they want. As people age, different benefits become more or less valuable (e.g. childcare benefits vs. sabbaticals)
- Ask older workers to serve as mentors, coaches, or consultants. Those can be especially fulfilling roles for experienced workers and it will help to facilitate the smooth transfer of institutional knowledge to the next generation.
Finally, remember that even though these policies might be tailored to older workers, chances are they will appeal to employees of all ages. That’s a clear win for workers and employers alike.'Remember that even though policies might be tailored to older workers, chances are they will appeal to employees of all ages. That’s a clear win for workers and employers alike.'Click To Tweet